Future Stars: Stefflon Don (Unsigned)

Taken from this week’s Future Pop mailer. Click here to subscribe.

Stefflon Don was one of the three artists (along with AJ Tracey and Tom Grennan) on the BBC Sound of 2017 longlist that I wasn’t already familiar with. After a quick look, that won’t be changing with AJ or Tom, but Stefflon Don definitely deserves some attention. 25-year-old Stefanie Allen may be a London-based female rapper, but don’t compare her to Nadia Rose and Lady Leshurr – her dancehall-inspired sound, proudly curvaceous look and provocative lyrics place her firmly in the tradition of international artists like Nicki Minaj and Lil Kim. She first became known for gender-flip covers of tracks by acts ranging from Rae Sremmurd to Section Boyz, and more recently she’s collaborated not only with British rappers Lethal Bizzle and Giggs, but also with US star Jeremih. She sings as well as raps, which could help her cross over with more commercial tracks later on, as Nicki did with Super Bass and Starships. She recently signed a publishing deal with Sony ATV (widely mis-reported as a record deal), and released an EP called Real Ting, featuring her single of the same name.

Future Stars: Yebba (Unsigned)

Taken from this week’s Future Pop mailer. Click here to subscribe.

Yebba is the artist name of Abbey Smith, a talented 22-year-old singer from Arkansas, who is rising to fame thanks to collaborations and shoutouts from big stars. Her controlled, smooth and powerful vocals make her a singer’s singer, like Tori Kelly and Andra Day, so it makes sense that artists like Ed Sheeran and Meghan Trainor are getting behind her. She also performed with Chance the Rapper on SNL, and features on the new A Tribe Called Quest album. Her duet with Clark Beckham from American Idol is by far the most popular video on his channel, with over half a million views. However, it’s now her solo original song My Mind which is making her name, thanks to her impressive performance for Sofar Sounds. Only released one month ago, the song has already been covered by British pop star Anne-Marie. She’s now working on new material with writers including Diane Warren, but there’s no news yet on a record deal.

Song of the Week: Dusky Grey – Told Me

Taken from this week’s Future Pop mailer. Click here to subscribe.

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It’s always a delight to find that a new track I’ve discovered on Spotify is actually by a British act. Currently sitting atop the very diversely international New Pop Revolution playlist is Dusky Grey, aka Gethin Williams and Catrin Hopkins, two 19-year-old singers from North Wales. Their single Told Me is a simple, sweet duet. The sound is acoustic-pop but somehow manages to be a bit reggae and a bit country at the same time. Originally a solo act, Gethin released an album as Dusky Grey called Hide & Seek, but when he featured Catrin on this track and it was signed to East West/Warner Music, they became a duo. In addition to the Spotify boost, the track has been supported by BBC Introducing in Wales and Merseyside, and they will be filming a video for it next month. In the meantime we’ll have to make do with this video of them singing it live… in Welsh.

Future Hits: We’re too busy making hurricanes

Taken from this week’s Future Pop mailer. Click here to subscribe.

My weekly playlist features five tracks I predict will be future hit singles in the UK.

Tracklisting:

  • Migos ft. Lil Uzi Vert – Bad and Boujee
  • Tinie Tempah ft. Tinashe – Text From Your Ex
  • The Chainsmokers – Paris
  • Noah Cyrus ft. Labrinth – Make Me (Cry)
  • AJR – Weak

For more Future Hits, subscribe to my  Spotify playlist, updated weekly with the next big thing.

Future Stars: Hare Squead (Columbia)

Taken from this week’s Future Pop mailer. Click here to subscribe.

The Irish had a strong showing at Eurosonic, thanks to acts such as Áine Cahill and Brian Deady, but one group you’d never guess were from Dublin, until you heard their accents, is Hare Squead. The strangely-named trio (it’s a spoonerism of “Square Head”, so Squead is pronounced “Skwed”) are a lively, funny bunch who bounce around the stage, rapping and singing to dance beats. Rather than imitating their British neighbours, and despite being signed to Columbia UK, Hare Squead have gone for a much more American style. Their characterful performance and witty lyrics could be compared to Rae Sremmurd, Outkast and Odd Future, while the influence of 90s rock creeps through on some tracks. Living outside of the current rap scenes enables Hare Squead to pick what they like and create a new sound. Now their challenge is to be embraced by the hip hop community, which is tricky when you don’t belong anywhere.

Future Stars: Alma (Virgin EMI)

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I loved Alma’s single Dye My Hair from first listen, but I was confused as to why it was getting a push in the UK, when so many Scandi artists with bigger followings and more local success don’t. It all made much more sense when I saw her live at this month’s Eurosonic Festival in the Netherlands. Playing at one of Groningen’s best venues, the Grand Theatre, the 21-year-old Finnish singer was a bright ball of energy that brought the crowd to life. She performed with a band that included her twin sister, who has matching neon yellow hair. At a festival for new artists, it can be hard to get the audience dancing, but Alma had a recognisable hit on her side (her collaboration with Felix Jaehn, Bonfire), as well as a set full of catchy dance-pop tunes. Along with Venior, LCMDF and Saara Aalto, Alma is showing that the Finns can have fun.

3 things to love about Eurosonic and 1 thing that HAS to change

Earlier this month I headed over to Groningen, a small city in the Netherlands, for one of Europe’s biggest showcase festivals. Taking place in mid-January, Eurosonic Noorderslag is the first gig of the year for most of the artists and attendees, which means it sets the tone for the year ahead. It’s a chance for new stars to jump ahead of the predicted ones-to-watch, and for the music industry to catch up with contacts and friends, and to eat lots of Dutch frites.

Here are three things to love about Eurosonic…

1. Finding out if your new faves are actually any good

Through compiling Future Pop every week, I regularly get obsessed with new artists at an early stage, before there’s enough material online to really know how great they are. Eurosonic is a rare opportunity to see these acts live, often before they’ve played in London, and find out if the obsession is warranted. My most anticipated act this year was Iceland’s Glowie, and though she’s definitely not ready for global superstardom right now, after seeing her at Eurosonic I’m very hopeful for her future.

2. Falling in love with an artist you never expected

My favourite performances of Eurosonic this year came from two acts I was aware of, and interested in, but certainly not desperate to see. As you’ll read in this week’s Future Pop (coming to your inboxes later today), I was impressed by the energy and fun of both Finnish pop star Alma and Irish rap trio Hare Squead. Another surprise favourite was also Irish, but very different – singer-songwriter Áine Cahill.

3. Discovering hidden music scenes of Europe

Each year Eurosonic has a focus country, which features in convention panels and sends over a selection of their best talent to perform at the festival. This year it was Portugal – not a country known for its home-grown artists, but it is home to one of Europe’s top summer festivals, Primavera Sound. Artists such as Best Youth and Neev showed the diversity of the Portuguese music scene.

And the one thing that HAS to change:

The weather. Cold, rain, snow, hail… Groningen in January’s got it all. Can we not just move the whole thing to Spain next year?

Song of the Week: Glowie – No More

Taken from this week’s Future Pop mailer. Click here to subscribe.

This week I’m off to the Netherlands for Eurosonic festival, where artists from around Europe will be performing. As the first showcase festival of the year, this is their chance to get the attention of live agents, festival bookers and the media, in the hope of breaking out of their local scene to build a following across the rest of Europe in 2017. I featured some of the acts I’m most excited to see on This Must Be Pop, including Icelandic teen star Glowie (real name Sara Pétursdóttir), who I’ve been obsessed with since I discovered her while browsing the festival line-up last week. Collaborating with Stop Wait Go, the team behind Icelandic girlband The Charlies, Glowie has released a series of world-class pop tunes. Her sound is modern and mid-tempo, sweet not too saccharine. The best example is her debut single No More, with its cool stop-motion video filmed around Reykjavik. No Lie and Party also come highly recommended.

Future Hits: Shut your mind off and let your heart breathe

Taken from this week’s Future Pop mailer. Click here to subscribe.

My weekly playlist features five tracks I predict will be future hit singles in the UK.

Tracklisting:

  • Ed Sheeran – Shape of You
  • Ed Sheeran – Castle On The Hill
  • Snakehips & MØ – Don’t Leave
  • Martin Jensen – Solo Dance
  • Kris Kross Amsterdam & Conor Maynard ft. Ty Dolla $ign – Are You Sure?

For more Future Hits, subscribe to my  Spotify playlist, updated weekly with the next big thing.

Future Stars: Migos (300 Entertainment)

Taken from this week’s Future Pop mailer. Click here to subscribe.

Hip hop trio Migos have been together since 2009, but it wasn’t until 2013 that they started to break though, with their first Billboard Hot 100 entry, Versace. They released a critically acclaimed EP, Y.R.N., and signed to 300 Entertainment (an independent label distributed by Atlantic), eventually releasing their debut album Yung Rich Nation in 2015. A few months (and no hits) later, with band member Offset in jail, they claimed they had left the label, which was denied by founder Lyor Cohen. However, this troubled time was followed by their biggest hit yet, Look at My Dab, known for its viral dance video. While the group had made a name for themselves in the hip hop scene, they still had no significant chart success. That all changed in the last few months of 2016. They signed a management deal with Kanye West’s GOOD Music, and they’re now enjoying a true crossover moment. Bad and Boujee, featuring rising rapper Lil Uzi Vert, sits at no.2 on the Hot 100 this week, jumping from 13 the week before. It’s also likely to become their first UK hit, after entering the singles chart at no.67. The track has inspired a trend of “rain drop, drop top” memes and was chosen by many music sites (Complex, Fader, Fact etc.) as one of the top songs of 2016. They’ll release their second album Culture later this month.